November 2, 2018

Teen Perspectives: PTAC Trip to ICA Boston

This past weekend, while half of the Teen Council was at Creative Time, the rest of us went to Boston to partake in a conference at the Institute of Contemporary Art(ICA). The theme of this conference was “Brave Spaces”; at some point in this event we all encountered Brave Spaces in one way or another. One such Brave Space was on the airplane ride to Boston, when one of our members went on his frost airplane ride. He handled it extremely well, calmly taking pictures of the breathtaking view halfway into the ascent. In fact, on our return flight he managed the turbulence significantly better than we did.

The Teen Arts Council at the ICA Boston began the conference itself with tours, which we felt really set the tone for the event. From experience (in preparing for our Open House on 11/15!), we know that simply organizing tours can be difficult. The teens showed immense bravery and composure during the tours and offered some great insights on the art works. Another instance of bravery that I personally experienced was at the round table discussion. I was grouped with a number of adult educators and artists, all of whom had drastically different stories and backgrounds. The round table began with basic introductions and a discussion about Brave and safe spaces. However, it quickly became intense as we were asked to share difficulties that we would not usually share. The vulnerability and bravery of everyone in our group a new experience for me and was extremely inspiring.

With PTAC’s open house in just one week, we took the teen tours at ICA Boston as a great learning experience to find what methods of touring most suited us. I appreciated that the teens were ready and willing to be vulnerable, but I didn’t leave the tour feeling I had a sound enough understanding of the art work. I think, had they asked the tour group more thought provoking questions, a productive and interesting dialogue could have been started about each piece they toured. It is my opinion, that as a tour guide your objective should not be for you to be remembered, but it is for the artwork to be remembered, and that is something I learned from the teen tours at ICA Boston.

At one of the breakout sessions at the conference I attended “Building the Plane”: an atmosphere for risk-taking. This was one of my favorite parts of the conference!  The Denver art museum teen council and their faculty advisors led the presentation and discussed one of their teen groups, Failure Lab, where they create an experimental environment for their teens in which they are encouraged to test their ideas and try new things. While this method of giving teens the power to control the direction of their art council seemed thrilling at first glance, I realized there may be some challenges to this method. I wondered how all the teens agree upon one idea. Certainly they wouldn’t all agree on one thing, so how did they keep teens who weren’t proponents of the idea motivated? Either way it was fascinating to learn about another art council.

While PTAC wasn’t at the Building Brave Spaces Conference, we explored Boston! One of the most impactful stops was the Holocaust Memorial. I tried to look at the memorial from an artistic mindset, but found myself unable to think about the different ways a memorial could be designed because I was fully taking in the experience.  Warm steam seeped through the floor adding condensation to the windows surrounding PTAC. I remember looking to the walls and thinking they were crying and I felt guilty for enjoying the warmth of the steam in the cold Boston air. The memorial is designed in such a way that there is a glass chamber for each concentration camp during the Holocaust. Each one carries two quotations from individuals affiliated with that camp. Certain quotes made me feel uncomfortable while others made me want to scream. Overall, the memorial is a powerful experience that I believe everyone should see.

In conclusion, PTAC had a blast in Boston! It was and educational and fun experience that we will never forget! We are grateful that we were able to attend this conference and learn a great deal about teen arts education. We were able to meet other teen art councils, learn about their experiences and methods of operating  and learned how we can improve our own. Building Brave Spaces is an event that will positively impact PTAC for years to come.